'Do you remember .... ?' These words are often heard and remind us that we know quite a lot about people and places from Badsey and Aldington's past. History is not only about things that happened hundred's of years ago, but also things in living memory. Here are a few things to get you reminiscing.
Arthur Randall (Hairdresser)
Yvonne Brown recalls Arthur as being 'a kind man'. She writes, 'London born Arthur moved to Badsey in 1964 having bought a newly built house at 8 Bretforton Road. He was accompanied by his wife Joyce, whom he married in 1947, and their 16 year old son Paul. Arthur found employment at the Long Marston Army Camp and remained there until he retired. Arthur was also granted permission by the council to use his garage for gents hairdressing, and ran this alongside his day job, opening from 6 pm to 9 pm weekday evenings, and all day on a Saturday. By the time Arthur retired Paul had emigrated and Arthur and Joyce reluctantly sold up their Badsey home and joined their son in New Zealand. Arthur died about nine years ago, but his wife and son still live out there.' Will Dallimore adds, 'I can still remember the smell of the bay rum he sprayed on at the end of the haircut and I won't forget one embarrassing moment which happened to me on my way home after visiting Arthur's. I started riding my old bike back home towards Horsebridge (I think it was a bike our old chap had picked up off the dustcart) when I heard something rubbing on the back wheel. I noticed a large crowd at the bus-stop as I crossed over to the path by John Austin's shop. The rubbing noise was getting louder, I glanced down to see the the inner-tube poking out of the tyre like a balloon, and getting bigger by the second. As I passed the bus-stop it went 'BANG!', much to the amusement of the waiting crowd. I put my head down and kept pedaling until I got to the relative safety of the Avenue, the sound of laughter still ringing in my ears.'
Fish and Chips
Ian Major has memories of fish and chips, he writes; 'I certainly remember Turner's fish and chip van (later Tayler's). We were all summoned into the road by their hand bell. They were dangerous vans since they contained hot fat, the chips being cooked as they went along. An old Turner's chip van ended its days in Wakefields nursery on Blackminster Bank. I used to pass it when I walked to Badsey Growers. The chip shop down Synehurst was re-opened for a time in the 1960's, and I believe it was run by the Knight family.'
Ian Major also remembers other regular visitors to Badsey. The mobile ironmonger's lorry, selling buckets, mops, brooms. Paraffin was sold from tanks behind the cab. I can still smell it now. There was a weekly (Chinese) laundry delivery, also the Corona pop lorry, and Johnson's milk delivery. They had an Austin pick-up with milk churns on the back. They always delivered as a family, with Mr. and Mrs. Johnson and their son, Walter, in the cab. Their farm was at Bower's Hill.
Grower's Collection Boxes
Michael Barnard remembers a wooden box on the wall of the Blacksmith's Shop which may have been green and was used by market-gardeners to leave notes for the transport firms that collected produce for market. Do you remember it? Was this the only one in the village? Do you know anyone who used it?
During the last war many girls came to the village to work on the land. Many married local lads and have lived in the village ever since. Were you, or did you know, a land girl?
Will Dallimore remembers Aldington Chapel from his teenage years, he writes; I attended Aldington Chapel on a rather irregular basis, it was usually when my father, George, who was a lay preacher was due to preach there. As I remember it the chapel was a single storey building, which was entered by climbing a couple of steps. Inside, the lower half of the single room had a wooden dado. Turning left, an aisle led up between rows of wooden benches, with moveable backs. Halfway up the aisle stood a tortoise stove, its metal chimney rising up to the gabled roof. There was a small stage at the front of the room on which a wooden pulpit sat. The organ, technically a harmonium, with two pedals to pump the air, was found to the left of the stage. One of the highlight's of the Christian calendar is Harvest Festival, and at Aldington Chapel, as at other churches, fruit, vegetables and flowers were bought in to decorate the chapel. The centrepiece of the display being a large harvest loaf incorporating wheatsheafs amongst its highly-decorated crust. Year after year I had drooled over this loaf and then one year we finally outbid all others at the Tuesday night sale of produce. However, the loaf may have looked appetising, but in truth it was stale and like eating cardboard, and we never bid for it again. Some of the people I remember from Aldington Chapel were organist, Trevor Jones, and Percy and Mrs. Harrison and their pekinese dogs.
Chris Flanagan was born in his Grandad's house in Synehurst in 1941, at the end of the war Chris moved to Birmingham with his parents, Jack and Dorothy, and his brother Mike. Chris's Grandfather was William Sandford who was married to Alice Knight, they lived at what is now 25 Synehurst, it was then number 11. Chris has recently written his autobiography called 'Brummagem Days - Brummagem Nights', here is an extract entitled 'The Badsey Pike', the year is 1953.
Saturday was a grey, damp and doleful day.
As a Summer's day it just wasn't up to it.
It really belonged some place else.
Like in February.
There it would hardly have been noticed. It would have just been your standard-issue wet blanket of a winter's day. But instead it just wanted to hang around here in August getting up everybody's nose and down everybody's drainpipe.
And it did.
It was wet, and it was getting wetter.
By dinner time the sun had got it's rainhat on, and I'd got my Pakamac on.
Of course we should have reckoned on a bit of rain. We'd been well warned. The plaster souvenir on the kitchen cabinet that was supposed to bring us 'Good Luck From Cheddar Gorge' had the bloke in the bowler hat edging forward with his brolly, while his missus in the bonnet skulked behind the doorway with her parasol.
I showed it Dad, but he only grunted, 'This'll tell you nothin' you couldn't find out by having a shufty out of the window. What you want is one of those mahogany an' brass barometers like your Aunt Rene's, and then you'd be getting summat, but stuff like this'll tells you nothin'. It's just a fiddle like the tat they give you when you win on the 'Hook A Duck' stall down at the Flower Show.'
Dad was just ahead of Mom, Maureen and me, trying to haul an groaning suitcase up the steps to the bridge that would take us over New Street Station to the No. 148 Midland Red Evesham bound bus. He'd got everything in it except the kitchen sink plunger and his tools, and Mom was right mithered about that. Grandad's plumbing was up the spout because nothing was going down the spout.
'Our Dad,' she worried. 'Our Dad was relying on you not forgetting that plunger and that. What's he going to do, else ? Him at his age. Nothings flushing proper, and he isn't up to fixing it himself, him being on the liquid paraffin and having to work on his bit of land. And that's only when he's not in the lav.'
Grandad, that's Mom's Dad, lived in Badsey village just a plum stone's throw from Evesham town, and if we managed to get what was left of Dad, and the reluctant suitcase, onto the bus in Station Street by noon we'd be knocking on his back-door well before two.
The bus heaved into the kerb outside Grandad's at just after half one. He lived at number eleven Synehurst, but nobody in the village ever called the road anything but The Pike. Maureen, who'd been sleeping with her head of dark curls trembling against the window, woke suddenly.
'Are we at Studderley yet, Mom ?' she mumbled, still adrift in a dream she'd never remember. Can I have a cornet instead of a choc-ice ?'
'We've already been through Studley and you've had your ice-cream,' soothed Mom as she buttoned Maureen's pink cardigan and straightened her ankle socks. 'Pick up your stuff. This is Grandad's stop.'
I hit the pavement and within seconds I was swerving down the gravel path of number eleven with Maureen stumbling breathlessly behind. Side-stepping the front door found us down the side of the house, brushing past the swaying hollyhocks and the heavily scented silver lavender, until a second corner brought us to Grandad's shed. I heard him before I saw him.
'Is that thee, ower Tiffer ? Ow bist thee then ?'
It was me alright. I peered into the dark until my wide eyes found him sat on his wooden box whittling at a piece of wood, his jack-knife held in ancient hands. His weathered face crumpled with a smile as he nodded to himself.
'Well I goo to 'ell.' He said quietly, his slow eyes moistening. 'It's ower Tiffer and ower Maureen, then.' I was always Tiffer when I was in Badsey. Another kid, a village kid, was also a Christopher, and they called him Chris. Me being born just a few days later meant I was called Tiffer, so together we were Chris-Tiffer.
As Grandad stood up and flicked the wood shavings from his trousers Mom and Dad dragged into view with the luggage.
'Alright then, our Dad ?' said Mom. 'Have you been taking your medicine an' that, like I said ?' Grandad had been taking it like she said. He looked across at Dad. 'Did thee manage to bring the plunger. Jack?'
Dad, who was always Jack in Badsey, and John everywhere else on earth, shuffled awkwardly until Mom spoke.
'He's got everything but, Dad, but I thought he might bike it into Evesham to see what's what at the ironmongers in Bridge Street.'
'They'll 'ave 'em in Asum, Dorothy, but we wunt want 'im a-gooin now. 'I spec e'll be wantin' 'is tea fust.' said Grandad , leading us up the back-door step into the kitchen. I stood in the doorway breathing in the smell of fresh mint and stale water. As the others creaked into their chairs and started to trade laughs and arrowroot biscuits, I looked back at the shed.
Grandad's shed was my secret. It always had been.
I was born in Grandad's house during the War, and ever since then his shed had been where I'd sneak out to and hunch myself up on his box and wonder why I was me, and not anyone else, and why only I knew what I knew about secret of the shed, even if I didn't know what the secret was, or even if there was a secret. For an eternity, if there's such a thing as eternity, it had been cluttered from the earth-trodden floor to the creosoted walls and ceiling with a jumble of rakes, hoes, peck baskets, onion and sprout nets, dibbers and dubbin, bags of hoof 'n' horn, fish manure, asparagus knives for cutting sparra-grass, seed drills and seed catalogues, and stacks of sacks, and things I knew, and things I didn't, that leaned against this over here, or that over there, and some of it was cobwebbed, rotting and rusted, and bundled herbs hung from butcher's hooks just above your head and touched your hair whether you were looking or not.
Later on, straight after my tea had gone down, and Maureen had gone for a lie down, I crept across the grass which was now gently steaming as the sun, fiery and promising, warmed the good Badsey earth. I slid into the cool of my secret shed and swiftly hid the matchbox in an old Golden Syrup tin behind a jar of brown paint. I wouldn't need it until later. I found the bamboo fishing-net and the jar where Grandad had said, and I was off.
A blistering sun, now as high as summer, ran with me from the Horsebridge stile, across Badsey Brook meadow through the whispering yellow grass and the scattered moon daisies and buttercups.
I stood silently at the water's edge.
I waited awhile.
Badsey Brook was as timeless as a dandelion clock.
Grandad had listened to it for a whole lifetime, and he heard what no one else heard.
Maybe I could.
I knelt down in the shade of a branch that trailed it's fingers in the water, and slid my net carefully into the steadily swirling stream. A couple of grey minnows darted beneath my net before I could snatch at them, so I tracked them to a bend in the brook where the water was almost still, almost dark, and almost mysterious. Again I slipped my net into the brook and swept it slowly backwards and forwards, withdrawing it only to clear it of waterweed. I'd only returned my net to the water for seconds when suddenly a clutch of sticklebacks quickened towards the cover of the overhanging bank as the shadowy shape of a flat snouted fish thrust at them. With a gasp that even I couldn't hear, I netted it and tipped it quivering into my large onion jar. I quickly clasped my hand over the top. This wasn't going to be the one that got away. With my head down I scuttled for home across the droning meadow.
Grandad looked at me and then at Uncle Billy, who stood sweltering in the deep pocketted overcoat he wore nightly when rabbiting or laying night lines for eels.
'That's a young pike you've got 'ere. Tiffer.' he said. 'A fresh-water shark. Ent that so Billy ?'
'Aye, Dad. All on the kids in the village 'ave bin after the little bugger, I can tell yer.' Grandad had filled a zinc bathtub with water from a hose and we were watching the pike nosing vainly for it's prey.
'Look at "is teeth, Tiffer. Sharp and pointed they is. When 'e's a big 'un 'e'll have gudgeon, roach, frogs an' even water birds if they'm small enough, 'e'll grab 'em sideways on and then 'e'll jerk "em around and swallow them yud first.'' Grandad pointed his pipe at our prisoner. 'Look at 'is colourin', an all. Mottled green and brown so's 'e can can 'ide in weed and reed beds. 'is eyes be 'igh so 'e'll be able to slide under 'is prey and strike....a bit like a U Boat eh, Billy?'
Uncle Billy, who had braved Dunkirk, winced, sniffed and nodded.
'Pikes can smell out anythin' in the water.' Grandad continued.' I used to put a bit o' kipper as deadbait on a line, and even if the water was muddy 'e'd pick up the scent and 'ave it. And I'd 'ave 'im.'
Uncle Billy nodded again.' 'e'd taste good an' all, wouldn't 'e , Dad ? Specially if 'e'd bin baked slow' like.'
We watched my pike for sometime before I asked the question I really didn't want to ask.
'Can I keep him, Grandad?'
Grandad took out his black leather tobacco pouch and carved off a plug with his pocket-knife. He spoke quietly as he rubbed the baccy in his hands.
'Trouble is Tiffer is that 'e'd die if we tried to keep 'im. 'e needs running water and live food. I think 'e'll be better off back where 'e come from. He needs to go back wum. The Brook'll need 'im more than us'll.'
For the second time that day I stared down at my sandals. I pulled up my left sock. Grandad was right. He always was.
After Dad and Uncle Billy had fixed Grandad's waterworks we all sat up at the kitchen table for tea. We had two Hartwell's faggots each and spuds and runner beans off Grandad's ground. His potatoes were even better than those that Dad grew on our allotment up the back of the Uplands Pub, and our Dad really knew what was what when it came to spuds. His very first job off the cattle-boat when he came over from Derry was on a potato farm just outside Liverpool. When it came to spuds Dad knew his onions. When the time was right he'd manure, trench and water them carefully, and then he did everything else you were supposed to do to them apart from taking them for a walk. For afters we had rhubarb tart and condensed milk, but I could only shift half of mine because I'd sneaked a dripping sandwich when no one was looking and my stomach just didn't want to know.
'We'm off up to the Oak, then,' said Dad once the crocks had been washed, rattled and stacked. 'Yer Grandad hasn't been out for a cider for weeks.'
As the back door closed behind them Mom took off her pinny and sat down to finish off the cold potatoes left in the saucepan. We watched her in silence until the pan had been scraped empty.
'Mom,' said Maureen, trying to hide a yawn behind her hand.' Could you tell us about when you were little, like you always do?'
'Well I've never been really little, have I ?' said Mom. Even when I was little I was big. The others used to call me the big'un. I was a bit of a steamed puddin' of a wench, if you ask me..too many drippin' cakes.'
I tugged my chair tight under the table.' Go on, Mom.Tell us. We'll go to bed afterwards. We've got our comics an' that.' Mom wiped her hands on her pinny and licked her lips.
'Alright,' she said at last.' Where shall I start ?'
' Anywhere,' I said, because I knew that was where Mom's stories always started. And anywhere was where they always ended. Somehow her stories were always the same, yet strangely they were always different. Even when we knew what was coming next, we were surprised. Only our Mom could tell our Mom's stories, and us kids could never go to where they come from, unless Mom took us. She used to tell us her old teacher at Badsey School used to say 'You can never step into the same river twice.' And it was the same with Mom's tales from her past; they were different everytime we walked into them. Mom looked up at the cuckoo clock above the range as it measured the fading light.
'Did I tell you about old Silas Hyde ? If I didn't I'll have to make it quick. Look at the time.'
'I think you did tell us, Mom.' I said, but immediately wished I hadn't.
'I don't think you did, Mom.' Maureen wasn't going to bed that easily.
'Well, anyroad,' began Mom with another glance clockwise. 'Old Silas lived on rough cider and pickled eggs and the only job 'e had, that you could call a proper job, was cutting the long grass on the roadside verges for Evesham Council. One afternoon, after they'd chased 'im out of the Wheatsheaf, he decided he could clear the grass quicker if he fired it. So fire it, 'e did. Course the smoke got to 'im, and that, and the cider, had 'im gasping in the ditch. He must have fallen asleep because that was when his jacket caught fire. That's when they found him.'
' Was he dead. Mom?' asked Maureen.
' No. But the village kids 'ad to put him out.' Mom's eyes still glistened at the memory.' And he still wears that bugger of a jacket. Calls it 'is smokin* jacket.'
Mom eyed us both.' Off you go, the two of you. And draw the curtains before you get in bed because you don't want the moon shining on your face when you're asleep.'
' Why not, Mom ?' asked Maureen.
' Never you mind.'
' Does it make you go mad like Uncle Billy said ?' I said.
' Up you go, I said,' she smiled, and then added 'and haven't you forgotten something ?' I had. I'd forgotten all about Mike's flamin' matchbox. I should have done what he wanted me to do, and I should have done it today and got it out of the way. Now I'd have to get up early in the morning and pretend I was going down the village. Then I'd have to double back and head for Badsey Station. And I musn't say anything to anyone. Nobody must know what I'm doing.
' Night, Mom.' I murmured.
' Night Mom.' echoed Maureen.
It must have been dark when Grandad and Dad came home from the Oak. Not that I would have known as by then I was asleep. The early morning sun was drawing mist from the dew-damp grass as I scuttled past Cyril Bird's shop with the matchbox in my fist. If I'd had a tanner on me I'd have gone in for a quarter of something just to watch old Cyril serve me because, despite being blind, he was a magician who could jangle a pocketful of change in his hand and total it in his head as quick as any bookie's clerk. And then he'd reach out and place his hand on any bottle or box behind the counter, almost before you'd asked for it - and I'd seen him do it - and I knew that if he was ever on stage at the Aston Hipp he'd be able conjure with silk scarves and playing cards as skilfully as he shuffled packets of Silk Cut and Players Weights from under the counter, and as an encore he'd easily turn wine and water into wine gums and water biscuits.
I rounded the Bretforton Road bend and crossed over just before reaching Buster Mustoe's sparra-grass ground, where me and Mike used to hide from Ming the Merciless when the ferns grew tall. From there I just had to get a shift on down the Birmingham Road. Nobody or nothing was moving on the platform, or in the sidings, when I finally pulled up breathlessly and crouched alongside a hedge near Badsey Station. It was only when I glanced up at the signal-box that I realised I'd be seen if the signalman took a break from wrestling with his levers and took a shufty eastwards along the downside line. I needed cover, but I didn't have to wait long, because a village lorry loaded with Pershore plums, pears, runner and dwarf beans choked up the incline towards the level crossing. I quickly ran alongside it on the blindside of the signal-box only pausing to place Mike's matchbox on a rail near to the gate. Once over onto the main platform side I sat on the bench, took out my trainspotting pencil and a bit of paper, and waited. And waited. I heard the train's whistle first, and then came the grating sound of the level-crossing gates as they lurched across the track and stopped with a shudder. As I stood up I caught sight of the train's smoke trail in the distance as it hustled it's way down Camden Bank from the Cotswolds. In moments it had crashed through Badsey Station on its way to Evesham leaving behind nothing but a swirl of cinders and a flattened matchbox on the whitewashed pebbles along the track. Swiftly looking towards the booking-office I was on and off the track in seconds, and halfway back up the Birmingham Road in minutes. It was only then that I opened the crushed matchbox and took out the two pennies that were now as flat as cow-pats.
One for me.
One for Mike.
(c)2004 Chris Flanagan
With the village having no paper delivery service can anyone remember Aubrey Syril and his push-bike overflowing with newspapers, or what about Conger?
If you can add anything to the above then let us know, also if you have memories or anecdotes of people and places in the village from your past that you think may be of interest to others then contact Will Dallimore by email at Will@badsey.net.